WINDHOEK: The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare on Thursday, strongly called all stakeholders to accept and comply with the new Labour Amendment Act of 2012, in the interest of fairness and harmonious labour relations.
This comes after concerns were raised by various employers in the country, that once implemented on 01 August 2012, it would negatively affect their businesses.
The Labour Amendment Act, 2012 (Act No. 2 of 2012) will regulate the employment relationship in the context of labour hire, will come into operation on 01 August 2012 while Part four of the Employment Services Act (Act No. 8 of 2011) will regulate private employment agencies and related sections will come into operation on 01 September 2012.
Speaking at a media conference in the capital on Thursday, Immanuel Ngatjizeko expressed concern whether the Namibian employers have any idea of the conditions under which the lowly-paid and marginalized “casuals,” temporaries and independent contractors must live.
“Have they been to Babylon, Okahandja Park or Ombili. Have they considered the meagre wages that they pay these employees. Our Ministry stands ready to provide further information or explanation concerning the new laws,” he said.
Ngatjizeko made it clear that the new legislation must be understood against the historical background of extreme exploitation of black workers and the current day exploitation and marginalization of a sector of the Namibian workforce.
Before independence, the regulation of black labour was inseparable from the objectives and modalities of colonialism and apartheid with its system of influx control, passes, native reserves and job reservation, he stressed.
The Minister reminded the concerned employers that blacks served as a cheap labour pool for white farmers, mining companies and other white employers.
The greatest supply of black labour, he noted came though the notorious contract labour system, in which all workers were temporary employees on fixed-term contracts, to be relegated to unemployment on native reserves at the end of the contract.
Stressed Ngatjizeko: “ Their status as workers was akin to chattel. Breaking a contract was a crime. Those workers who were not on contract were subject to the common law employment at will, where they could be fired with impunity for any reason or no reason. Black workers did not enjoy the right to form trade unions and to bargain collectively with their employers.”
He made it clear that Namibia’s independence laid the basis to reverse the chattel-like status of black workers and held out the prospect of equality and a better life.
Vestiges of the old system are present today, in the form of both attitudes and practices on the part of some Namibian employers, which are not in line with the Namibian Constitution or the labour laws and which hinder the achievement of decent work.
According to the Labour Amended Act of 2012, all employees employed through the labour-hire system must have the same rights as permanent employees, including belonging to a union and bargaining units.
This amendment, guarantees that employees are not at risk, but have protection.